The Senate unanimously passed a legislative package that reverses a scheduled Medicare physician pay cut of about 10% and extends funding for the State Childrens Health Insurance Program through the early part of 2009. The bill now goes to the House for a final voteperhaps as soon as todaywhere passage is expected.
President Bush is expected to sign the bill, which was crafted with input from the White House.
The Senate vote capped a rambunctious day on Capitol Hill, with members of the Senate Finance Committee rushing to put the final touches on the $4.6 billion Medicare bill crafted not 24 hours earlier.
Included in the legislation are a host of provisions to extend several Medicare and Medicaid programs that were set to expire, including a physician quality-reporting initiative and a system of bonus payments to doctors who practice in shortage areas. Though the measure replaces what would have been a steep cut to doctors with a short-term 0.5% pay increase through June 30, 2008, several physicians groups still registered complaints.
We are disappointed that the Senate could only agree on a six-month action because it creates great uncertainty for Medicare patients and physicians, Edward Langston, board chairman of the American Medical Association, said in a written statement. We strongly urge Congress to break the tradition of short-term interventions that are not fully funded and fail to chart a course for replacing a flawed payment formula that is a barrier to improving quality and access to care for seniors. -- by Matthew DoBias